Friday, January 07, 2011

The Future of Business Intelligence--Everyone a Data Analyst?

I follow a local LinkedIn group, Cincinnati Regional Business Intelligence Networking Group, where the question “Where do you think the future of Business Intelligence is headed?” was posted. My response was:
Personally, in addition to the normal predictive data analysis, I see a real strength is to have everyone that deals with data, the administrative assistant to the CEO, understanding how to properly interpret the data that they deal with. Therefore, everyone in the organization has the ability to provide insight into better decision making at their level.
Another member of the group then asked in response, “Mark, what data tools do you see being developed or expanded upon to reach this goal? I believe that total company comprehension of corporate data could also be the way of the future.”
This caused me to further reflect and consider how enterprise wide data analysis, by most if not all employees, might look. I replied:
Foremost, standard data understanding needs to be basic training for employees. For example, training them how to: disassemble complex problems in order to better evaluate and solve the issues, develop hypothesis and experiment with the data to find unknown causal relationships, use of current common tools such as spread sheet apps (for example, using the Solver function for data optimization) and free tools such as R, understanding how to use data visualization, understanding and using Bayesian rules, etc.
Along with the standard extract, transform and load (ETL) and reporting tools, apps that can assist in the above would be very valuable. Given that the above are really processes that can be applied to various situations, tools that shorten the steps is what I would consider. To be honest, I am not sure that the tools would be as valuable as training employees to understand and do basic data analysis with the data they work with.
The consideration of the importance of understanding data and how to interpret it came from an interesting and informative talk by Danah Boyd at Gov 2.0 entitled "Transparency Is Not Enough." The talk is available at
Per Boyd, "The #1 goal of transparency is to empower people, to give them an opportunity to be informed as citizens, to allow them to be a check to power. But when those in power release data in a way that allows them to maintain power, we've got a huge problem....We must also help people develop the skills to interpret data.....Information is most useful to people when they have the skills to interpret it....Because of this, making information available alone is not the great democratizer. It must be coupled with enabling people to have the skills to interpret it."
Applying this premise to the Business Intelligence arena, having access to terabytes of data in and of itself does not result in helping the organization make better decisions. “It must be coupled with enabling people to have the skills to interpret it.”

Posted via email from Mark's Musings